What if opportunity never knocks?

    The adage that opportunity only knocks once probably isn't true but what if it doesn't knock at all? One of the key ingredients to athlete development is having opportunities to learn, practice, and compete in a sport. Without these opportunities an athlete's skills and their movement repertoire will be limited. Do young athletes in Malaysia have opportunities to learn and participate in sport activities? Opportunities that are plentiful enough and long enough to foster the development of talent?

    I've written often about how athletes need opportunities to practice in order to develop their talents but I've never really addressed the scope of what this means. Sport talent takes a long time to develop but time is only one of the ingredients needed. Another is opportunity: opportunity to learn, practice, play, and compete.

    Elite athletes who compete on national teams and represent their countries in international competitions are the best that a country has to offer. In Malaysia the quality of the current crop of national athletes is constantly under scrutiny. Why, for example, is the football team languishing in 173rd position in the FIFA rankings? What's so different now than when it reached its highest ever ranking of 73rd back in 1993?

    With a few exceptions, other sports are in a similar predicament, the perception is that Malaysian sports have declined. Assuming this perception is true what is the possible reason for this decline?

    Several stages occur during the evolution of an elite athlete from a youngster learning basic sport skills to one able to perform at their full potential. At younger ages athletes are building capacity to perform. They are learning skills, building physical literacy, and increasing aerobic capacity and strength. During this period they're practicing several sports and learning games and strategies. In short, they're learning how to become athletes.

    As athletes age they gradually switch from building capacity to the utilization stage, which is where whatever capacity they have is used for performance. The crucial thing is that these stages are based on age and growth and can't be made up if they're missed. Top athletes today benefit from years of capacity training in youth sport programs. Countries with strong youth sport cultures will always have an advantage over those that do not have such a culture.

    Malaysia does not have a robust youth sport culture and it's safe to say that athletic capacity of many of the national athletes has never been developed. Many top Malaysian athletes are highly skilled but they're competing against athletes from other countries who have enjoyed years of capacity building within a robust youth sport infrastructure.

    To some the solution is training harder, getting a foreign coach, or some other fix that occurs during the utilization stage. There's nothing wrong with these things but they don't solve the basic problem. Capacity has to be developed at younger ages. If it isn't then the opportunity to do so disappears.

    Malaysian sport associations have to figure out a way to offer year round opportunities for youth to learn, play, and compete. Without this the athletic capacity of these youngsters will never get a chance to develop and Malaysia will always be watching their best athletes struggle against those from countries with strong capacity building structures in place.

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    Bill Price (price@sportkid.asia) is the owner and Chief Data Scientist at Sportkid Metrics.

     

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    Fear of missing out is hurting youth sports - 23 October 2018


    Deliberate practice vs. late specialization - 24 September 2018


    Is talent identification even possible? - 17 September 2018


    Who won the Asian Games? - 10 September 2018


    Re-thinking the mission of Malaysia's sport associations - 03 September 2018


    Using maturity offsets to determine age at peak height velocity - 27 August 2018


    The youth sport talent illusion: How we confuse early-maturers with good athletes - 13 August 2018


    The tip of the iceberg: What are we seeing when we watch elite sport performances? - 30 July 2018


    7 things youth sport coaches should know - 25 June 2018


    Who is responsible for athlete performance: Athletes, coaches, or committees? - 18 June 2018


    Creating a culture of achievement in sport - 05 June 2018


    Sport development in the headlines (sort of): Is Malaysia really serious about revamping their sports system? - 28 May 2018


    Who won the Commonwealth Games? A points analysis of the Gold Coast games - 23 April 2018


    Kaizen: Improving sport administration will improve performance - 02 April 2018


    What can Malaysia learn from Norway about sport development? - 05 March 2018


    More efficiency tips for coaches: Dealing with more than one email address and other communication ideas - 26 February 2018


    Efficiency tips for coaches: What can you do to work more efficiently? - 19 February 2018


    LTAD: Training to compete - 22 January 2018


    Sport clubs are the lifeblood of national sport development. They need help from sport associations to do their job. - 15 January 2018


    Sometimes taking risks is the only way to improve: Take a chance! - 18 December 2017


    How we calculate age in youth sports can have benefits and consequences - 11 December 2017


    What is bio-banding? Can it help reduce the relative age effect in sport? - 04 December 2017


    Understanding the role that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation play in the athlete development process - 20 November 2017


    Great expectations: Expect more, get more! What we learn from raising the bar in sport performance - 14 November 2017


    Why process is far more important than outcome in a learning environment - 25 September 2017


    Sport associations are embracing physical literacy training - 18 September 2017


    Creating a true sport development system in Malaysia - 11 September 2017


    Who won the SEA Games? - 04 September 2017


    KL2017: Reporting individual sport results deserved better planning - 29 August 2017


    Can we please forget about ways to identify talent and just work on getting more athletes? - 07 August 2017


    Using the team selection process to boost motivation and increase athlete participation - 24 July 2017


    LTAD: The Train to Train stage - 10 July 2017


    LTAD: The Learn-to-Train stage - 26 June 2017


    Athletic training for youngsters - 12 June 2017


    Visualization and imagery in sports - 05 June 2017


    Young, single-sport athletes suffer more injuries and do not reach their full potential - 29 May 2017


    Transformational vs. transactional coaching - 23 May 2017


    Will they come back tomorrow? The most important KPI for youth sport coaches - 08 May 2017


    Advice to parents of young athletes - 01 May 2017


    Is VIP leadership of sport associations a good idea? - 22 March 2017


    What happens after an athlete's initial introduction to sport? - 27 February 2017


    "Where do athletes come from?" A paper presented at the Kuching sport psychology conference - 16 January 2017


    Understanding sport talent pathways - 09 January 2017


    Make 2017 the year of the growth mindset - 02 January 2017


    Teaching physical literacy skills in youth sport practices - 12 December 2016


    Developing sport from the ground up: How does the process really work? - 06 December 2016


    Pay for what you want: Why less government funding may be the best strategy for sport development - 21 November 2016


    The 10,000 hour rule: "Not for the faint of heart nor for the impatient" - 14 November 2016


    Parent involvement in their child's sport participation sometimes backfires - 07 November 2016


    How to do the measurements for determining peak height velocity (PHV) - 24 October 2016


    A foreign coach is not always the answer - 17 October 2016


    Tips on creating an effective coaching environment - 10 October 2016


    Peak height velocity and aerobic development: Using simple measurement data to inform training decisions - 26 September 2016


    Early sport specialization is still not a good idea - 19 September 2016


    What kind of data do we need to develop sports? - 13 September 2016


    The attrition and transformation models of sport development - 05 September 2016


    Solve for <x> - 29 August 2016


    Artificial elimination of athletes from training and competition hinders sport development in Malaysia - 15 August 2016


    Time is the most important factor in talent development - 01 August 2016


    What if opportunity never knocks? - 13 June 2016


    The long-term athlete development framework offers youngsters a chance at sport success and an active and healthy life - 06 June 2016


    Early sport specialization is not a good development strategy - 30 May 2016


    What does a declining population mean for sport? - 2 February 2016


    Coaching 'flow' - 11 November 2015


    The coach's role in creating a deliberate practice environment - 02 November 2015


    When should athletes specialize in a single sport? - 11 September 2015


    Physical literacy: The Holy Grail of health, wellness, and sport development - 1 September 2015


    Revisiting the 10,000 hour rule: Practical thoughts on talent and practice - 10 August 2015


    The power of 'not yet' - 20 July 2015


    Let's stop trying to identify sport talent and start developing it - 22 June 2015